Categories
Books Review Sports

Soccer in Sun and Shadow: Mini Review

You can’t write enough about a book that begins with, “We lost, we won, Either way we had fun.

In the book, Eduardo Galeano takes you through a brief history of football (soccer to him) through the last century, inter woven with a lot of social commentary. You get goosebumps reading his description of certain goals, matches, and individuals. Though not as intricate in social details as CLR James in Beyond the Boundary, you can clearly see the viewpoint of a South American in a game that was then managed by the Europeans.

To choose a few highlights from the book would be a travesty, given that every short note (the maximum length of a chapter is three pages) is a masterpiece in itself. You would have read authors describe players, plays, matches, or rivalries, but have you ever read an ode to the stadium? Read what Galeano has to say of it when a goal is scored.

“… the stadium forgets that its made of concrete and breaks free from the earth and flies through the air.

There is nothing more mute than the stands bereft of people.

At Wembley, shouts from the ’66 World Cup which England won still resound, and if you listen very closely you can hear groans from 1953 when England fell to the Hungarians. …… The Stadium of King Fahad in Saudi Arabia has marble and gold boxes and carpeted stands, bit it has no memory or much of anything to say.”

Or what he says of idols.

“Sometimes the idol doesn’t fall all at once. And sometimes when he breaks, people devour the pieces.”

And of course, he writes the most (for a player) about Maradona, who he felt has not been fully understood and punished too often for speaking out his mind.

“Maradona charged a high price, and paid one as well. He charged for his legs – and paid with his soul.

Diego Armando Maradona never used stimulants before matches to stretch the limits of his body. It was true he was into cocaine, but only at sad parties where he wanted to forget or be forgotten because he was cornered by glory and couldn’t live without the fame that wouldn’t allow him to live. He played better than anyone else in spite of cocaine, not because of it.”

If there is only one soccer book you will ever read, let this one be it!

Categories
Sports

Beauty, In Slow-Mo

It seems to be a season of retirement for my favourite players. First Agassi, then Schumacher, and now Riquelme. Anyways, here is a small tribute to the greatest midfielder of our times.

I must confess right at the start that I have an extremely soft spot for Argentine players. Right from Maradona and Batistuta to Messi and Crespo, I have been a huge Argentinean fan and I was heartbroken after their exit from the ‘06 FIFA World Cup.

Some people play the game like they have just 45 minutes rather than 90. Riquelme, however, plays as if there are 180 instead. As Arsène Wenger said, “He’s always able to slow the game down, and wait for a weak moment to kill you“. He is so different from his contemporaries that football once again seems like the beautiful game when he plays.

His speed of thought, ball possession and his creative vision is what sets him apart from the pack. A master at juggling the ball, he outfoxes the defense with such ease that it induces a sense of serenity in his game. When the Argentine is at work, a certain degree of romanticism fills the game, and you are transported back to an era when the game was played for pleasure than winning alone. I always hear people say that Sachin is a great player since he makes the game look so easy. I now believe that the same is true for all sports. Riquelme, with his supreme control of the ball and a vision that sees all, does exactly that.

Born in a poor family of 10, he was spotted early by Boca Juniors (same as that of legendary Maradona and Batistuta) in 1995 and stayed there till 2001. In 2002 he shifted to Barcelona and could not adapt himself to the European style of play. His performance and confidence took and nosedive. In 2003 he was loaned to Villareal. Back in midst of Latin American players (like captain Sorin) he blossomed again. The playmaker was back and helped improve Villareal’s fortune in both the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League through the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

He announced his retirement on September 13, 2006, at a young age of 28, a decision that shocked many who expected him to take over from Sorin. I hope he reconsiders his decision. I hope he does not retire. I hope that the game is not robbed of the beauty. I hope to see Riquelme play again.

As Argentina legend Jorge Valdano describes Riquelme: “If we have to travel from point A to point B most of us would take the six-lane highway and get there as quickly as possible. Riquelme would choose the winding mountain road, the beautiful scenic route which takes him six hours instead of two.

PS: Also posted on Pavilion Seat and Desicritics.

Categories
Sports

The best goal ever!!

A tribute to Maradona on 20 years of his magic!!!

Behold!! The true magician is at work!!

Categories
Sports

Goal of the WC2006!!

From the best team ever. Argentina!!